After a pretty up and down (mostly down) season on defense, the Auburn Tigers fired defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.

First, I want to say that I am a huge fan. He and his family are true class acts. Coach Johnson, in my opinion, is a damn good coach. I was with him at South Carolina and to this day he is one of my all-time favorite coaches. After leaving the Gamecocks to take a head coaching job at Southern Miss, he was fired from there after going 0-12. He then went on to Auburn two years ago to be the defensive coordinator.

This season has had some highs and lows for the Tigers defense. The game against his former team, South Carolina, is when the wheels started coming off. Dylan Thompson and the Gamecocks’ offense shredded Auburn that night.

A lot of people don’t realize, because they never played in the SEC, playing against ranked teams week in and week out takes a huge toll on teams, mentally and physically. I really hope coach Johnson makes his way back to Columbia, South Carolina, and he can help get those guys back in shape. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Whether or not he makes his way back to Gamecocks country is up in the air, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

I still keep in very close contact with a bunch of my former teammates at South Carolina and asked a few guys about what they thought about coach Johnson. The unanimous phrase I heard was “hard ass.” I could see that because I can recall him coaching very hard. Chaz Sutton told me that he loved coach Johnson, one of the best coaches he’s ever had. Sutton is now with the the Tennessee Titans.

Antonio Allen said the same thing. Allen had a little more personal coaching from coach Johnson because he was the spur linebacker and that’s what coach Johnson’s specialty was. One of my favorite guys on the team was Victor Hampton. Vic came to South Carolina as a wild man, but he was one of the best athletes I’ve seen. He said he owes coach Johnson a lot of credit for getting him to where he is today (he’s with the New York Giants).

All these guys all had the same things to say about coach Ellis Johnson: he’s one of their favorite coaches of all time. He was highly respected because he treated all of the guys like men instead of kids. You could talk to him about anything, on and off the field, and he would go out of his way to help you out.

If I ever played defense, I would definitely want to play for him. Hell, I wanted to play for him, and I was the damn quarterback.